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…lessons of perfection, taught by a potato…


Things such as this always send me on a powerful whirl around the block of thoughts and meaning. In the overall scheme of things it’s probably analogous to getting 3 cherries to come up on a pull of a nickel slot machine – it’s merely chance…

I was setting out to make potato pancakes. I base almost all of my recipes and notes on proportions, usually starting with one thing as the “master” ingredient, and everything else as some fraction of it. In the case of potato pancakes, everything is based off of a pound (actually I’m lying – I base all of my weights on the metric system of grams, in which case a pound is 454 grams…) of potato. Since potatoes vary, I always end up scaling it up or down, depending on whether I’m using one or many potatoes. I fudge a little – usually for every potato, I use one egg – it’s the flour I scale, which is 90 grams (3/4 cup) to a pound (454 grams) of potato (5 to 1 – or 20 percent of the weight of a potato… Move the decimal point over one, double it and you’ve the weight in grams of flour… you can do it in your head!) It’s an easy bill of 3 ingredients to remember. I usually add some chopped green onion and salt and pepper, but those only add to the basic idea of the structure…

I can’t imagine the odds of having a potato land on the scale and weigh exactly the amount you’re looking for. It’s a strange thing and one which makes a person like me immediately think of notions of perfection…

It is perfect – in the sense that I don’t have to scale anything. But for a moment I’m thinking this is some sort of platonic ideal of a potato for making potato pancakes… But truly, I realize it isn’t. Potatoes really, truly, don’t give a shit about what they weigh. And how I weigh a potato, the units I prefer, or the criteria I employ to assess it is only really relevant to me and what I’m intending it to be used for. It’s all arbitrary… It’s only perfect in terms of the construct I’ve adopted to see it in at that moment…

It brings me a larger thought about me, my own wiring, the things I see in the world, the trap I try never to fall into… I measure potatoes on a standard scale which allows other things to be used or measured in terms of it. That it’s an accepted unit of measure, given to me by others, works fine for this sort of thing – this thing of cooking, wanting a certain result of texture, flavor and behavior when fried in a pond of rippling hot oil. But the artsy-fartsy side of me sees it different. I look at the eyes on the potato, the little blemish, the odd fold about a 1/3 of the way down. It’s a unique potato with qualities and characteristics that needn’t be measured or defined. It’s a shape of its own, a color of its own, from the soil deposits that cling to it, to the slight bit of brilliant green (solanine) forming under the skin in one area, which I’ll have to trim away… It has a story of its own – though dull and growing in dirt for most of its existence – it formed into a unique shape anyway. It’s lovely for reasons beyond a simple, convenient, number on a scale.

It is no longer a pound of potato. I like that I have different ways of looking at things and make up my own units of ‘measures’. Nothing in life should ever be defined by one means.

I am guilty, I am told, often, and do not doubt for a moment, of falling in love with things far too easily. I wonder if it is love, or just that I’m utterly enamored with beauty and joy. I can see beauty in almost anything, everyone. True – some people have much more than others. True also – I am biased. I have definitions of beauty. It is a long and glorious list. There are, however, things which are universal which always come forth. Looking into the eyes of an 80 year old man and seeing youth and joy is every bit as beautiful, if not more so, than a grand work of art…

I’m fixated on this even more lately, as the events of the last few days has gotten everyone bickering about politics and labeling each other as a liberal or conservative or a whatever. There are too many lines in the sand drawn over which politicians are the ones actually screwing you and who are the good guys or the bad guys. With us or against us, all over again… All arbitrary measures, at best… There are more constructive ways to measure people, events, our lives, our convictions than with a D or an R or an I. For what purpose do we need to measure and define other people for anyway, unless we’re using them for some reason, like a potato in a simple recipe? I don’t want to ever fall into that trap that preys on the lowest means of looking at any other human as merely a label, a demographic, a stereotype… I don’t want anyone telling me what I must see in others, how I must judge them, what beauty they have or haven’t. That’s my sphere of life that no one will ever own. I will, happily, set my own unit of measures…



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